Saturday, October 22, 2022

Review of "Across Great Divides," by Monique Roy

 Review of

 Across Great Divides, by Monique Roy ISBN 978-0615846682

 Five out of five stars

True story of the brutality of oppression

 Eva and Inge are two German assimilated Jewish identical twin sisters and the story opens with them at a performance of the Berliner Philharmonie in 1932. Before the music starts there is an interruption when a small man appears in a balcony box and is cheered. That man is Adolph Hitler, the leader of a German political party that is rapidly growing in strength and a man that many Germans see as the potential savior of a nation that is mired in the depth of the depression.

 Their father Oskar is a jeweler with a great deal of knowledge of diamonds and his wife Helene shares his high level of loyalty to the German nation. Oskar owns a jewelry shop and is doing quite well despite the deep economic problems in the country. Eva and Inge are best friends with Trudy, an Aryan girl their age and they are so close that Trudy is one of the few people that tell the twins apart.

 This book is the story of that Jewish family as Germany stepwise descends into a horrific place to be a Jew. Old Aryan friends are forced to ignore them and more and more of their Jewish neighbors are suddenly disappearing. Finally, when the Kristallnacht takes place, Oskar and Helene are convinced that they must leave Germany and the whole family embarks on a dangerous journey that takes them westward from Berlin to Belgium.

 After the war breaks out the Nazi terror follows them so they leave once again on an extended journey down through Spain then Portugal to Brazil and eventually settling in South Africa. The war in Europe has ended and now they find themselves observing the implementation of apartheid, the brutal control of the majority black population of the country. Having experienced so much hatred themselves, they dislike the treatment of blacks but are uncertain how to react, as they once again feel powerless against the strength of a police state.

 As the blurb on the back cover indicates, this story is to some extent a biography of the author’s grandparents, who were Jews that fled Europe when Hitler rose to power. The events of persecution described in this book are historically accurate and there were many people that risked their lives to aid Jews. It is unfortunate that so many of them are lost to history as they were also victims of the deadly plague of Nazism.

 This is a great story of struggle, loss, triumph and uncertainty as the family manages to stay together through traveling thousands of miles under great danger and find a home in a strange land. The interaction between the South African policeman and the Jew Max is a microcosm of the pressures of dealing with the power of a police state expressed in the body of a single man that has the right to imprison you without charges.

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